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Patriarchy - contrasting the societal and biblical ideas

Discussion in 'Archived - Ethics & Morality' started by gengwall, Feb 8, 2007.

  1. gengwall

    gengwall Senior Veteran

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    Another thread strayed into this most thorny of topics and in discussing it with others (hi beechy) I thought it would be best to finally clear the air. What I would like to do is discuss what patriarchy exactly is, is the societal idea different from the biblical idea, is the biblical model of marriage even patriarchy at all, and what exactly is being taught and/or practiced in our churches today.

    I will reiterate my view on some of this as related in the other thread.

    Patriarchy is defined as "A family or society in which authority is vested in males, through whom descent and inheritance are traced." I believe feminism has demonized this definition even more, adding spousal abuse, domination, and even sexual slavery as inherent elements in the system. To summarize the contemporary idea, patriarchy is a social system where "men 'lord it over' women". Indeed, when patriarchy is usually mentioned in a contemporary social context it is this male domination of women that is being spoken of.

    In my view, the biblical view of marriage is completely the opposite of this unbiblical and sin filled model that we have come to define as patriarchy. That is why I would not use the word to define the biblical model, simply because of people’s preconceived notions of what it means.

    So what is the biblical model? Well, to start with, the ultimate authority in a family is God. Men and women are to both submit to each other in love but submit to God in authority. Moreover, roles and responsibilities in the family are to be delegated not based on gender but based on giftedness and divine direction. Decisions are made with consideration of everyone’s input and often, as with roles, the final say goes to the person most experienced or gifted to make those decisions. Sex, within this structure, is something equally shared, with both partners giving themselves selflessly to meet the other partner's needs (1 Cor 7).

    Doesn't sound too patriarchal so far. But everyone gets hung up (and freaked out) regarding "headship" and "submission". The biblical family structure is still a patriarchy in that the man is the head. So, what the heck does that mean?

    First, understand that this is not a position of dominion and it is not a position of privilege. Headship means we are to interact with our families like Christ interacts with the church.

    First and foremost, it means we are to be accountable for our family. It is our job to take responsibility when the family screws up, and our job to intercede when the family is threatened. This means protection, but it is even more on a spiritual front than on a physical front. Adam's failure to fulfill these two essential elements of headship were, in fact, the original sin. He did not intercede between Eve and the serpent, and he did not take responsibility for both his and Eve's actions when God sought out him to give an account of what had happened.

    The second element of headship is to serve the family. This is a self sacrificing service. Our family should be our number one (earthly) priority and we should serve and sacrifice for it even unto death, just as Jesus did.

    Finally, another responsibility of headship is to pray for the family. Although it is good for all of us to pray, it is specifically a husband's responsibility as demonstrated repeatedly by Jesus.

    So, that is what biblical headship demands and expects and that is what makes the biblical model patriarchal. It is a far cry from how our contemporary society defines it and an even farther cry from how traditional societies have lived it.

    Now, to be sure, there are some Christian families that go above and beyond. There are many wives who willingly and gladly cede authority to their husbands and happily accept traditional gender roles. That is their prerogative. That does not make their family or their husband any less biblical. In fact, such freedom is a welcome change to the strict and formulaic patterns sociologists like to plug us into (such as classical patriarchy as an example). Each family needs to work out the parameters themselves within the framework outlined in scripture. But just as the family that "looks" traditionally patriarchal (although looks are deceiving) can be perfectly in line with scripture, so can be the family where mom works and dad stays home with the kids. The NT model is quite flexible as long as these two things are being lived out: the couple submits to each other in love and to God in authority, and the man fulfills his headship obligation to pray for, intercede for, serve, and be accountable for the family.

    To summarize my opinion, patriarchy as it has been practiced even amongst God's people throughout the ages onto this very day does not reflect God's design for marriage.
     
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  2. Argent

    Argent Well-Known Member

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    Excellent post, gengwall, but don't get your hopes up about it being accepted in this rather godless section of the CF. "Patriarchy" is one of the great demons feminism is set on destroying, and proving it to be something other than the devil they want it to be isn't going to be well received as enlightenment or a better understanding of what Christian family structures are.

    Good try anyway.
     
  3. MooCar93

    MooCar93 Active Member

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    So feminism = godlessness.

    Gosh, I didn't realize wanting equal rights for women was contrary to God's will.
     
  4. *Starlight*

    *Starlight* Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time

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    Well, according to that description, patriarchy is very unfair. Why would one person be responsible for the whole family? It doesn't make sense. Fortunately, if I ever get married, it will be an equal relationship.
     
  5. MooCar93

    MooCar93 Active Member

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    It also begs the question, why did God bother giving women brains, wisdom and insight if we're ultimately supposed to rely on our husbands to make all the decisions?
     
  6. gengwall

    gengwall Senior Veteran

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    Don't go off half...well...I can't finish the expression in the context of feminism I guess. Anyway, he didn't say that at all. He said this section of CF is rather Godless. Judging by the volume of athiest icons that is a true statement. He also said that feminists (I presume not all but the more liberal, radical, "sameness" band), tend to demonize anything related to the bible and to biblical marriage, lumping it universally under their definition of patriarchy instead of evaluating it base on it's own merits. That is also true, at least based on the endless string of entries saying as much on feminist blogs.
     
  7. gengwall

    gengwall Senior Veteran

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    It is fair in God's design. By accountable, I mean before God. BTW, what is so bad about the man having to take responsibility? I thought one of the big complaints of women today is that the opposite is true - that men don't take responsibility for the family. Is this not the entire issue related to dead beat dads and the huge number of single moms out there today?
     
  8. gengwall

    gengwall Senior Veteran

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    This has nothing to do with family decisions, as I noted in my original comments:

     
  9. *Starlight*

    *Starlight* Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time

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    Why should only the man take responsibility instead of both people together?
     
  10. gengwall

    gengwall Senior Veteran

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    Because that is what God demands. Remember again that this is primarily accountability before God. Of course, we each need to be responsible for our own actions. But in the Garden, even though it was Eve who took the fruit first, it was Adam only who God called to account for what had happened and for the actions of both of them. To be sure, there were consequences for both because of their actions. But Adam was who God held ultimately responsible.
     
  11. MooCar93

    MooCar93 Active Member

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    Because it implies that women are less like equal, capable partners and more like children.

    There is a HUGE difference between being a deadbeat dad and being a dominant, patriarchal husband. All most "feminists" want is an egalitarian (read: 50/50) marriage. Is that really too much to ask?

    And the reason most feminists don't like the word "patriarchy" is probably because of how that system has been abused for millenia. You might as well ask a black person why slavery can't be a good thing.
     
  12. MooCar93

    MooCar93 Active Member

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    Which is why Eve received by far the nastier punishment?
     
  13. beechy

    beechy Senior Veteran

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    Hi gengwall (J). My questions are as follows:

    First of all, your definition of patriarchy (where did you get that definition from anyhow?) states that a patriarchic family is one in which “authority” is vested in males. Authority is defined by the dictionary as power to influence or command thought, opinion, or behavior; or persons in command. Even substituting the word “authority” for “headship” as you do later in post, “headship” is defined as the post of a head, and head is defined as a leader, or one in charge of a division or department (let me know if you think I’ve chosen the wrong definition of the alternatives in the dictionary).

    In sum, the definition of patriarchy posited at the beginning of your post puts the man in a position of leadership or command of the family. If the man is leading or commanding, it means the woman is following … not leading the family alongside him, or being a co-commander, but following.

    I know you also said that both spouses should be submissive to God (God is the ultimate leader and commander), but that does not change the line of command implicit in the concept of patriarchy which involves male “authority”: God is the commander in chief, Man is the general, and Woman is some sort of lieutenant colonel or something.

    Indeed, Merriam Webster (run by man hating feminists?) defines patriarchy as “social organization marked by the supremacy of the father in the clan or family, the legal dependence of wives and children, and the reckoning of descent and inheritance in the male line; broadly : control by men of a disproportionately large share of power”

    If you do not think a model Biblical family places the man in a position of command, authority, or power over a woman, then maybe you should (as you suggest) abandon the phrase “patriarchy” as inaccurate, rather than trying to apologize for it … (although I actually think that your vision of a Biblical family may be patriarchic after all …)

    Now to your discussion of the qualities of “headship” as you define them. I have questions about the concepts of intercession and accountability. You say that Adam’s original sin was that he did not intercede on Eve’s behalf, nor did he take responsibility for Eve’s actions.

    What were Eve’s responsibilities in the Garden of Eden scenario? Should she have consulted with Adam before eating the apple, or is it Adam’s responsibility to unilaterally intervene? Since Adam didn’t intervene, was Eve less culpable for what she did? God asked each of them what happened and punished both of them for doing wrong. As part of that punishment, Eve became subject to the rule of her husband.

    What if the scenario were reversed in the sense that the serpent talked to Adam, and he ate the apple first and gave it to Eve for her to eat. Do you think that Eve would not have had any responsibility to intercede on Adam’s behalf? Would she have been absolved of culpability because her husband gave her the apple and she had to follow his leadership and take a bite?

    This is getting long … so I’ll stop here for now.
     
  14. gengwall

    gengwall Senior Veteran

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    In your opinion. Actually, it is a curse, not a punishment per se. We trace much of the ills in the patriarchy exercised throughout the ages directly back to these curses.
     
  15. *Starlight*

    *Starlight* Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time

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    ok.... well, I don't believe that God demands something that unjust. God is supposed to be just, after all. I think that the Adam and Eve story was written that way because the culture then was patriarchal.
     
  16. MooCar93

    MooCar93 Active Member

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    Are you saying men have had a harder time throughout history than women? I beg to differ.

    And by the way, sorry if I'm coming off as antagonistic - this is just an issue that's very close to home for me. :)
     
  17. Argent

    Argent Well-Known Member

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    Please don't misconstue my statements.
     
  18. gengwall

    gengwall Senior Veteran

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    Only if you are inclined to view it in a defensive light. Genesis 1 and 2 make it perfectly clear that men and women are equal. The entirety of scripture reafirms this equality. (Ignore the history of humans living under the curse of the garden and look to passages where God talks about women and men). But it is also clear that the husband is accountable before God (as Jesus was in taking on the sins of his "family"). I do not see how this diminshes women in any way. Especially within the family structure, where the bible is clear that there is no gender division regarding roles, responsibilities, or decisions.

    Of course not. That is exactly what the application of the biblical model leads to.

    Agreed.
     
  19. MooCar93

    MooCar93 Active Member

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    But isn't that what you've been arguing in favor of this whole time? That man's role is the leader/head of the family, and that woman's role is as "copilot"? And that man bears the primary responsibility for the family's welfare?

    I'm really confounded now.
     
  20. MooCar93

    MooCar93 Active Member

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    What exactly about this post did I misconstrue?
     
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